Diocesan Office of Vocations
Please go to the bottom of this story to watch a video about the Office of Vocations and meet some of our seminarians.
Our diocese is blessed with devoted seminarians who are at different stages of formation on their journey to the priesthood. Gifts to the annual Catholic Appeal directly support these men, through the Diocese of Fall River Office of Vocations. Led by Rev. Kevin A. Cook, Director of Vocations and Rev. Jack M. Schrader, Associate Director of Vocations, the Office of Vocations provides spiritual guidance and services to those who have discerned a call to the priesthood.
The Catholic Foundation team recently sat down with three seminarians to hear their stories: John Garabedian, Gregory Quenneville, and Peter Scheffer (since his interview, Scheffer has been ordained to the transitional diaconate). While each shared a different set of experiences and perspectives that led to their discernment, they are united in a common bond of faith and service. The following excerpts were taken from each conversation.
John Garabedian, Immaculate Conception Seminary, South Orange, NJ (St. Mary’s Parish, Mansfield)
“I felt the Lord calling me to be a priest, to be open to the priesthood. When I first got this call, it wasn’t what I planned. But looking back over my life, I can see the Lord leading me each step of the way and preparing my heart so when I did finally surrender my will and asked Him what my vocation was, I had a lot of peace and clarity and a sense of freedom accepting the wonderful journey to the priesthood.”
“The future of the Church is the youth. My goal as a future priest would be to work with them, to listen to them. And help lead them into a genuine relationship with Christ and help them notice and appreciate the Lord working in their own lives. I think continuing to develop youth programs will give kids the opportunity to grow, come together as one, and have genuine community, genuine friendships. That will hopefully prepare them and equip them for a life of service. A life of faith. And a life of joy.”
“I’ve been very blessed to be able to play baseball while at Bridgewater State University. I feel like those experiences – having to juggle academics, work, practice, and a vigorous schedule – has prepared me to reach out to others, like you would reach out to a teammate who maybe is struggling. (In a similar way) a priest reaches out to the lost sheep in his community.”
Gregory Quenneville, St. John’s Seminary, Brighton, MA (St. Theresa of the Child Jesus Parish, South Attleboro)
“The aspect of the priesthood I’m most looking forward to is the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. The Mass is a timeless reality, where the passion of Christ is represented and infinite grace is brought into the world. I can’t imagine ever doing anything higher in life.”
“Looking back, there’s a lot of people who have influenced my vocation in many ways. The one person that really stands out was my grandmother. She was a woman of extraordinary faith and extraordinary virtue. Her Catholic faith was deeply important to her. She was also a woman of extraordinary sacrifice, living through the Great Depression, World War II, and having six children. All you had to do was walk into her house and you could see that faith was central to who she was: she had religious icons on just about every wall, a Crucifix, rosary beads. And there was also a kind of peaceful serenity that was so central to who she was. She was definitely someone who had a deep impact on my life as a child. And also perhaps planted the seeds for a vocation to the priesthood later on.”
“I was a psychotherapist before coming to seminary. I worked with combat veterans doing group and individual counseling for men and women returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan, and also with Vietnam veterans. And I don’t think I realized it at the time, but just like many things in life, you can kind of look back and learn that those experiences did play a role in who I am today. When you’re working in the field of mental health, you encounter human suffering in a way that you may not be able to in any other professional discipline. I think that naturally oriented me to the importance of God, the way He works in people’s lives in a particular way.”
Peter Scheffer, Pope St. John XXIII Seminary, Weston, MA (St. Pius X Parish, South Yarmouth)
“The program for priestly formation is more than just academic education. It’s more than the study of theology. There’s really four pillars. Obviously we spend most of our time in the classroom studying theology, liturgy, those sorts of things. But there’s other dimensions as well. There’s pastoral formation. There’s spiritual formation. And there’s also human formation. Now being an older man, some could say, we’re already formed. But when you’re drawn into Jesus, you realize there’s more. And it’s a deeper development. It’s a deeper formation. The courses that I enjoy the most are the courses about what takes place in a Catholic Liturgy. I always ask myself, ‘how did I miss that?’ It’s fascinating what Christ passed on to us to be able to do in His Church.”
“I believe that the best seminary I ever attended was my home, growing up. Even today with my parents and my sisters, whenever we get together, the first question from my parents is: ‘What time is Mass? When are we going?’ I don’t think anybody could ever ask for a greater foundation in terms of what’s at the center of it all and what it’s really all about. And I owe that to my mom and dad. I’m very grateful for that.”
“To the people who give to the Catholic Appeal, particularly for vocations, I would say thanks in many ways. First, thanks for your contribution of the treasure that you give. Thanks for the prayers. I have seen the most selfless people praying for us. People I don’t even know. We’ve often heard the expression, ‘I’ll put in a good word for you.’ These are people who are putting in a good word for us with God. And sometimes when you let that resonate and you let it set in, it’s really the most powerful thing.”
On June 13, Scheffer was ordained to the transitional diaconate and Deacon Steven Booth was ordained to the priesthood at the Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption in Fall River. The first reading at the Mass, from the Book of the Prophet Jeremiah, symbolized the profound importance of a vocation to the priesthood: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I dedicated you; a prophet to the nations I appoint you.”
Bishop Edgar M. da Cunha, S.D.V., who was celebrant at the ordination Mass, spoke directly to Booth and Scheffer throughout his sermon about the gifts of lifelong prayer and service. “We are not priests for what we can get, but for what we can give,” he said. “God is the only treasure people desire from us as priests, and we can’t give Him unless we have Him with us always.”
Your gift to the Catholic Appeal helps ensure all our seminarians receive the foundation they need to realize their calling and do God’s work in our parishes, hospitals, nursing homes, schools, missions and other diocesan offices and special ministries.
Contributions to the Catholic Appeal may be made either through a one-time donation or through monthly, quarterly, or semi-annual pledges. Donations may be mailed directly to the Catholic Foundation office, 450 Highland Ave., Fall River, MA 02720, made online at www.givefrdiocese.org, or dropped off at any parish in the Diocese. Please contact the Catholic Foundation office at 508-675-1311 with any questions.